The road to rebuilding Malden; what comes next

MALDEN, Wash. — The smoke has settled. Now, it’s time to rebuild. More than two weeks have passed since a wildfire burned about 100 homes in Malden, and the people who live there are working on a plan to put their town back together.

Malden residents met with the Whitman County Sheriff on Wednesday morning to discuss next steps. The town knows it won’t be easy, but they’re not ready to give up yet.

Sheriff Brett Myers said his biggest concern when the fire first sparked was making sure everyone was accounted for. Now that he and his deputies have done that, he said now is when the work to rebuild starts.

READ: Sheriff meets with Malden community to create rebuilding plan

It’s time to start cleaning up and picking up the pieces.

Heather Vandyke is a Malden resident, along with her husband. Her family has history in Malden dating back to the 1890s.

Her house completely burned down in the wildfire on Labor Day. Vandyke’s property is nothing but brittle branches, heaping piles of metal and the springs of a mattress.

“My car, most of our outbuildings. There was nothing left. Nothing,” Vandyke said.

According to the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office, between Pine City and Malden, 250 to 300 cars were absolutely destroyed. The sheriff is hoping homeowners can get rid of scrap metal and clean up around their properties as soon as possible, while the weather is still in their favor.

“To get the majority of those, just cleaned up. It allows people to move forward with the other stuff,” Sheriff Myers said.

Vandyke is one of about 100 homeowners in Malden who now have to clean up what’s left of their home.

“Some cast iron frying pans, some ceramic Christmas ornaments that weren’t burn that I’ve been collecting for 30 years. It was nice to see a little bit of home still there,” Vandyke said.

She, along with other homeowners, are taking the time to walk around and see if there’s anything left to salvage.

“Just taking small steps and keep it moving,” Vandyke said.

Keeping it moving, even when others try to get in her way. Vandyke said her mother-in-law caught a man going through the rubble on her property trying to steal her old rodeo buckles. She said the experience felt so insulting during a time like this.

“The small, little pieces of our lives. Somebody going through and taking the little memories we might still have. It’s a bit overwhelming and little devastating that somebody would go through and take things that don’t belong to them,” Vandyke said.

The town will hold meetings in Malden every Wednesday and Saturday at 11 a.m. Each meeting, they’ll talk about resources available and answer any questions.

READ: Sheriff meets with Malden community to create rebuilding plan

READ: Washington Commissioner of Public Lands visits fire-ravaged Malden